Visa To Protect Women At Risk: Gov’t

Visa to protect women at risk: govt
September 9, 2009

Women at risk of genital mutilation and “honour killings” if they're sent home will get more protection under Australia's migration law, the government says.

The main change – “complementary protection” – widens the criteria for deciding if people should be granted protection visas.

This enables criteria under the Refugees Convention and international human rights conventions to be considered together when a protection claim is being processed.

Complementary protection would cover circumstances in which people may be refused a protection visa because the reason for the persecution or harm should they be sent back wasn't a reason specified under the Refugees Convention – race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion.

“For example, it is not certain that a girl who would face a real risk of female genital mutilation would always be covered by the Refugees Convention, whereas she would be covered under complementary protection,” Immigration Minister Chris Evans said in a statement.

“Women at risk of so-called honour killings can also potentially fall through gaps in the Refugees Convention definition.”

Senator Evans said the bill amending the law, which was introduced into the lower house on Wednesday, establishes new criteria for granting a protection visa that cover Australia's human rights as well as Refugees Convention obligations.

These include protection from the death penalty, torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.

Cases that fall through the cracks are now dealt with through ministerial intervention.

Senator Evans said these ministerial powers were not reviewable, transparent or subject to procedural fairness.

“These changes will entrench our non-return obligations in law and provide for all claims to be considered efficiently in one fair and transparent process,” he said.

In introducing the legislation, parliamentary secretary Laurie Ferguson said the change had been widely recommended.

Advocates include several parliamentary committees, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Refugee Council of Australia.

Similar measures had already been adopted in most modern, western democracies, he said.

Debate on the bill was adjourned.